I have a confession – I’ve been struggling with sleep for quite some time. Getting to fall asleep has been challenging for me in the last year. As a holistic health coach, I’ve been working with people and helping them master the sleep, yet I’ve been struggling with the same thing myself.
As I wanted a sharp focus, vitality, energy to work, create, run around with my boys, as well as the ability to be present with my family and friends, I knew I needed to hack my sleep. However, let’s get clear here - I don’t value sleep only regarding being a servant of waking life (improving memory, appearance, immunity), but as an extension of natural rhythms on our planet.
It's easy to realize that I was very motivated to learn what was going on with my staying awake and getting energized in the evening. Hopefully, my insights will help you in finding that missing piece of the puzzle, so you can accept the benefits from the sacred time you spend in your bed (and stop looking at it as a wasted time).
First of all, here’s a little bit of a hot truth about the importance of sleep. The facts always get my attention on point, so here you are. There is substantial evidence emerging from chronic, severe illnesses tied to not having enough sleep. Short sleepers have 50% increase in the risk of viral infection, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, mood disorders.
Insomnia is an early sign of depression and depression is a late stage of insomnia.
If we consume too much, we won’t be able to sleep well. Consumption of poor indoor light during the day, an excess amount of information and food that inflame our bodies all contribute to the accumulation of excess energy.
We have the reluctance to go down and let go. People who do not sleep well get excessively energized at night. Are we able to emotionally, physiologically and spiritually let go? There is very much turbulence that’s happening all the time, and we have to know how to calm our minds, our bodies and prepare them for sleep.
I actually learned how to do this thanks to my kids. They need a structured nighttime routine to fall asleep - showering, brushing the teeth, putting on pajamas, hearing a story, getting and giving plenty of kisses and bam - they are off. However, if I just tell them to go to sleep - that will never happen. Adults, just as kids, need to unplug and disconnect from daily events slowly.
Some people keep saying that we should take a rest, so does it mean that we can go and watch TV to relax? Did you know that rest is not about having fun, reading a book, hiking or watching TV, nor scrolling the Instagram page? Rest is being in bed, unplugged, meditating and preserving the energy.
While we sleep and dream the brain digests and assimilates the information that it has received during the day. Dreams are the part of the memory consolidation as well as emotional healing.
Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine say that we need to be in horizontal position by 10 pm as that is the time when we get a second wind if we stay up. The horizontal position helps our bodies balance the liquids.
Now, there is a vast body of research on the effects that sleep has on our hormonal balance. It affects regulation of cortisol, leptin, ghrelin, HGH, etc. I will cover this subject another time, but for now, I want to share what has changed my life for better - release of a Human Growth Hormone (HGH) during the sleep. That one is responsible for antiaging, tissue regeneration, liver regeneration, muscle building, a breakdown of fat stores, normalization of blood sugar. If I don’t sleep well, I will wake up with tension in my calves. However, thanks to HGH release - I wake up fully refreshed and with my limbs ready to move and be active during the day.
We cannot swallow sleep through pill, tea or milk. We should build faith in our capacity to sleep. Our task is to learn to let go of the emotions, aspirations and other things that we carry to the bed. Chronic use of sleeping pills increase the risk of cancer, more than smoking, so play smart.
Now, I suggest that you observe your behavior during the day. When do you wake up? How do you feel when you wake up? How does your day look? Are there tasks that drain you? How do you feel after meeting certain people? Can you easily identify your thoughts? What and when do you eat? How much do you move? When do you get tired?
When you get clarity on what is going on on daily basis, I suggest that you apply some of the following hacks. Discovering them all at once can give you additional stress, so take it slowly. Less is more, give yourself a time and find out what works for you.
1. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
I mean it. I've been guilty of this one. Entertaining yourself with your phone is such a time waster which provides additional stimulation for your brain. We don't need that before going to bed. All the information coming from different photos, news and articles interfere with our intention to relax. My goal is to turn the airplane mode on at 6 pm.
2. HAVE A LIGHT MEAL 3-4 HOURS BEFORE GOING TO BED
Your body starts cleaning the house around 10 pm. If you eat at that time, it will be too busy digesting the food and you'll miss a part of the valuable cleansing process and as a result wake up grumpy, sluggish or exhausted.
3. SHOWER WITH WARM WATER AND USE LAVANDER ESSENTIAL OIL
If your nervous system is aroused, showering with warm water can calm you down. I do not recommend to finish with a few seconds of cold water as this will wake you up. Leave it for the morning or afternoon pick me up, and instead use a few drops of lavender essential oil to inhale under the rush of the warm water. That will help you regulate the activity of your nervous system and get you ready for the beautiful and restorative sleep.
4. USE BLUE BLOCKERS IF YOU NEED TO WORK AT NIGHT
Any light suppresses the production of melatonin, but the blue light is even more powerful in doing so. Melatonin helps us sleep, so we want to make sure that our body is producing sufficient amount of it. Our eyes are the gateways for light, as well as our skin, so for the basic protection use the blue light blocker glasses. In case you need to work at night, I have a nugget for you - the most amazing software that removes the blue light from your computer called F.lux. Here you can get it for free. You welcome!
5. GUIDED MEDITATION FOR SLEEP
I love guided meditations. They are so comforting and they easily propel me into the world of fairy tales. The most important thing is to find the voice that you like. Here is one beautiful meditation for chakra alignment that you can listen with your earphones while already in your bed. No worries if you fall asleep - that's exactly what we aim for.
Do simple better and remember that lifestyle is a set of choices you make on a daily basis, so choose wisely.
Have a beautiful holiday!